photo credit: Gogo
In an IFE panel at the MRO Americas Conference & Exhibition, executives from companies that make the entertainment systems joined airline representatives to discuss the newest in IFE systems. One takeaway I thought was interesting was the shortening life of these systems.
Erik Miller, manager, IFE systems engineering at American Airlines, says that the average lifecycle now of IFE systems is from 7-10 years, with the trend leading to the systems lasting only about 5 years in within the near future. But Billy Rumzi, VP customer operations at LiveTv says that operators should really be looking for systems that can last within the 5-7 year rage. Any longer, and the system becomes antiquated.
I asked Tim Lemaster, director of airline operations at Gogo, how this could affect planning. He says that it could typically take a year to 18 months for an airline to plan and implement a new system installation. To me, it seems like that means airlines will constantly have to keep themselves on the leading edge of technology at a faster rate from now on. Considering that many old tape boxes have only been taken out of aircraft in the last few years, it will be in interesting to see how airlines react and how they adapt their customer experience planning to keep up with the shortening deadlines.
One good thing that could come out of the shortening lifespan of IFE systems is the elimination of obsolescence issues that arise, but only if airlines choose to update on that 5-7 year cycle. It seems like parts could be even harder to find now for those who don't, although it should be noted that the systems themselves are becoming more modular and adaptable to changes within the lifecycle. That in itself will likely be a game-changer for parts sourcing.
Lemaster says that he envisions airlines eventually adopting a combination of "traditional" IFE (screens, of some kind) and WiFi for portable electronic devices on long-haul flights. For short-haul excursions, he thinks that going the wi-fi route will become increasingly popular as an economical alternative to screen systems.
It’s also interesting to note that the IFE providers mentioned that they think about a plan to take the entertainment systems out of the aircraft before even putting them in to keep up with the ephemeral nature of the current technology in place.